A new analysis of advertisements about Obamacare aired since 2010 finds that the health law’s critics have spent a whopping $400 million on television spots criticizing the law. That’s over five times the $75 million that the law’s supporters have spent on ads promoting Obamacare and outreach efforts meant to educate Americans about reform.
Anti-Obamacare ad spending was most pronounced during the 2012 campaign cycle. But conservative groups such as the Koch brothers-funded Americans for Prosperity have spent another $2.5 million on T.V. ads slamming the law since then, mostly in support of local Republican political candidates.
In one ad run of behalf of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), a narrator proclaims, “It’s already causing layoffs. Higher premiums are next. Mitch McConnell saw it coming. Leading the fight against Obamacare.”
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and other groups trying to educate Americans about the law’s benefits have only spent about half what Obamacare detractors have on advertising since the election.
Republican politicians and Obamacare detractors have balked at even that small level of spending. Much of their ire has been directed at HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who they claim has been abusing her authority by “soliciting” the health care industry to help her implement the law by reaching out to regular Americans through educational campaigns.
Several Republican lawmakers have questioned the legality of Sebelius’s actions. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) went so far as to compare HHS’s public-private partnership outreach efforts to the Reagan-era Iran-Contra scandal, and Sebelius to convicted felon Oliver North.
Sebelius swatted away allegations of wrongdoing at a House committee hearing on Tuesday. She pointed out that the Clinton administration employed similar solicitations of private groups when promoting the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and that the Bush administration did so when reaching out to American seniors about Medicare’s Part D prescription drug benefit.
The educational efforts are necessary considering the sheer scope of the reform law, which will affect tens of millions of Americans’ health coverage beginning in 2014. Americans still have major misconceptions about what Obamacare actually does — likely fueled by the deluge of politically-motivated misinformation campaigns against the law being waged by conservatives.
States such as Colorado aren’t even mentioning the terms “Obamacare” or “health care reform” in their own educational outreach efforts, instead opting to just describe its new benefits and protections for consumers. That’s not surprising, given how hard Obamacare critics have worked — and how much money they’ve spent — poisoning the well against the health law.